HC Deb 24 April 1953 vol 514 cc1685-717

Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [12th December], "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

Question again proposed.

2.14 p.m.

Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)

I wonder if I may, with the leave of the House, make a speech, bearing in mind that on a previous occasion I uttered the words, "I beg to second the Motion"? Having uttered those words, I require the leave of the House, which I have no doubt will be given to me if hon. Members show their customary kindness and indulgence.

It may be for the convenience of the House if I briefly remind hon. Members of the object of this Bill and of its terms, because it is some time since my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) introduced the Bill, having given it that objective and careful study which he gives to so many subjects. We always respect his efforts when he does so. I should confess that I have not given this subject the same degree of careful and objective study, but when my hon. and gallant Friend asked me to add my name as one of the sponsors of this Bill, I felt that we should welcome any move which is made to improve our machinery of Government from time to time.

The State has, in recent years, undergone tremendous changes. The central Government have had placed upon them responsibilities which are perhaps twice as great as they had before the war. I need not go into the reasons for that. We have to be sure that the machine of central Government which has to carry out the various duties now placed upon the central Government is a machine which is working smoothly, efficiently, and, above all, in the public interest.

It is a tradition of this country, and a very honourable one, which has been meticulously observed, that civil servants should be politically independent in their work and in the advice which they give, whatever private political views they may hold. That tradition has been so faithfully carried out that many of the senior civil servants have, in the course of time and by experience, found that they are entirely without party considerations, even privately. Those whom I have met privately have told me that they have trained themselves, probably subconsciously, but certainly, to a state of mind in which they do not hold party political opinions. I believe that is very often the case. I mention these facts as a background to the Bill.

The object of the Bill is to provide a panel of senior civil servants possessing wide experience in the working of the machinery of Government and a personal knowledge of their colleagues in the higher grades of the Civil Service; and that this panel of experienced, able and distinguished men should be available—I stress "available"—to Ministers requiring advice regarding the suitability of individuals to hold any of the three highest posts in each of the Departments of our home Civil Service. That is one of the main objects of the Bill.

The other main object is to describe the gentleman who is the senior civil servant of this country as "Marshal of the Civil Service." It may be asked "What is there in a name?" But this is a very important position, comparable in dignity perhaps with that of one of Her Majesty's judges or some of the more senior ambassadors. Many might think it a post comparable to that of the Speaker of the House of Commons—in a different sphere but at the same sort of level. We feel that the designation "Marshal of the Civil Service would be not inappropriate to the dignity of the senior civil servant.

I should remind the House that at present the Prime Minister's approval is required for appointments of the permanent heads of Departments, and also their deputies, their principal finance officers and their principal establishment officers. In practice he takes advice on these matters solely from the Permanent Under-Secretary to the Treasury. Although my hon. and gallant Friend may hold different views, I wish to make my position in this matter quite plain. I make no complaint whatever about the way in which either the present Prime Minister or his predecessor or the distinguished Permanent Under-Secretary carry out their duties; but it is no defence of any system to say it is satisfactory merely because it happens to be made to work well by individuals of good sense.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

Surely the whole basis on which the British Constitution has developed has been that we have found that things worked well and have left them alone?

Mr. Renton

The hon. and learned Gentleman is overlooking the important fact that there have been times when parts of the Constitution have worked well because there was good will to make it so. But Parliament decided that unless something was done it might not work so well—

Mr. Paget rose

Mr. Renton

I am conscious of the fact that I have occupied a lot of the time of the House today, mainly because I had my name down as a sponsor to two of the Bills on the Order Paper and I am particularly interested in speaking on yet another Bill. I think, therefore, that I should be allowed to get on with my speech. No doubt the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) will have an opportunity to speak later.

The designation "Head of the Civil Service" dates from 1919 and is derived merely from a Treasury minute. There was no Parliamentary authority underlining it and it is limited to the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury. Clause 1 of the Bill proposes to establish: a Board to be called Her Majesty's Civil Service Appointments Board…for the purposes hereafter mentioned. The chairman of the Board is to be the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but he may delegate all his functions under the Measure to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury; that is to say, the chairman of the Board will be someone whose advice is not really sought in accordance with the objects of the Bill. He is a mere chairman. But advice will be given by the members referred to in Clause 3: The members of the Board, other than the chairman, shall be such of the persons holding office as Permanent Under-Secretary of State or Permanent Secretary or Deputy Undersecretary of State or Second Secretary or Deputy Secretary in the Government Departments… All the Government Departments of standing and importance in the home Civil Service are mentioned. That is not including the Foreign Service or the Colonial Service. It is essentially a body of senior civil servants of the home Civil Service.

Clause 4 is perhaps the most important. Having considered the matter since the Bill was printed, I think it might be amended in Committee, should this Bill be sent to a Committee, in order to clarify the real purpose of the Bill. At present the Clause reads: It shall be the duty of the Board … to select officers in Her Majesty's Civil Service to be recommended to the appropriate Ministers of the Crown as being suitable for appointment to any of the following posts… and the posts are set out.

It would seem that the wording, select officers…to be recommended to the appropriate Ministers does not sufficiently clearly emphasise that the Board is to be used only if the Minister should require their advice. There is no obligation on the Minister to consult the Board and in making a senior appointment in his Department he need not accept recommendations which the Board may make. What we consider important is that Ministers shall be heads of their Departments and that in making appointments they shall have the benefit of the present system; but I do not think, with respect to my hon. and gallant Friend, that we have made the position sufficiently clear.

In an article some weeks ago, soon after my hon. and gallant Friend introduced this Bill, "The Times" criticised it very severely. It seemed to me that the article revealed a misunderstanding of the meaning of Clause 4. It did not seem to be understood that the function of this Board was purely advisory and that their advice need not necessarily be accepted. We think Ministers must retain control of their Departments and any steps likely to deprive them of the right to seek discussions with the Prime Minister on matters affecting their Departments should be deplored. The Bill is intended to place the onus for seeking advice of the members of the Board upon a Minister in search of a new officer to fill a vacant post, or to fill a post not well enough filled at present. It would be intolerable if the Board were able to impose its will upon the Minister. It must, therefore, be advisory both to Departmental Ministers and to the Prime Minister.

I ask hon. Members to consider that this House has a responsibility to keep an eye on our system of Government— not to be complacent about it but to be prepared to see it overhauled and examined from time to time. Since the present Government came into power, I have been astonished at the great difficulty which they appear to have had in achieving economies in the Civil Service. We were told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the number would be reduced by 22,000 in two years. One of the reasons for this difficulty is that Parliament has been inclined in an irresponsible and most disgraceful way to criticise civil servants as idle people. This criticism is one which personally I think could never be supported.

Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Test)

It is made only from the Government side of the House.

Mr. Renton

If the hon. Gentleman likes to make that point he can. I will accept it. It is irresponsible to criticise in that way. At the same time I blame Ministers from the party opposite who over-recruited the Civil Service in the years after the war, or did not let it run down enough after the war, and so created a condition in which men were idle. Civil servants have told me, "We are not necessary; we want a good job." The responsibility for having created the situation where some criticism was justified lays with hon. Gentlemen opposite; but I still say that there has sometimes been irresponsible criticism as well as justifiable criticism from this side of the House.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

What did the hon. Gentleman do when a civil servant came to him and said, "I am wasting my time"? Did he bring the matter to the attention of the Minister and suggest that this gentleman might have to be removed from the Civil Service?

Mr. Renton

If the right hon. Gentleman presses me, I will tell him. This happened about five years ago with a very old friend of mine. I was best man at his wedding; that shows how close a friend he was. He was in a Government Department the name of which I will not mention. He was an established civil servant. He said, "It is quite absurd. There are too many of us. I have delegated an awful lot of my work to people who are not really necessary, and the result is that I am not really fully employed." I went to a Minister in the right hon. Gentleman's Government and talked to him about it. In the circumstances I thought that that was the right thing to do. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes, I will discuss the matter further with him elsewhere.

I was trying to describe the attitude of this House towards the Civil Service. I said that sometimes there was irresponsible criticism about idleness: there has also been some responsible criticism of idleness. There has also been tremendous admiration of the personnel of the Civil Service and the way they carry out their work; but that admiration has generated complacency about the structure of the system.

That is why I say that this Bill gives an opportunity to look at an important part of the system—the appointment of the senior civil servants—so that we may be sure that it is working well now and will work well in future. The important consideration is that it should work well to cover all eventualities. Even if some hon. Members do not agree with the Bill as drafted, I implore them to let it go to the Standing Committee, where disagreements can be thrashed out. Even those hon. Members, if there be any here, who are resolutely opposed to the Measure and do not want to see it passed into law, may feel that discussion in Standing Committee would be useful. It would allow some grievances to be aired.

I congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend upon the interest which this proposal has caused and also upon the slight controversy it has aroused in high places. One should never be afraid of arousing controversy in high places.

2.38 p.m.

Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Test)

I interrupted the excellent speech by the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) because I have been concerned from time to time as to the damage and hurt done to worthy servants of the State by irresponsible criticism of the Civil Service. By all means let us not be complacent. Let us never be satisfied that any Department of State is 100 per cent. efficiently run. But I get angry and distressed when we have wholesale libelling by political doctrinaires of groups of men whose only crime is that instead of being paid by private enterprise they are paid by the State.

I was most interested in the hon. Gentleman's speech and in the Bill. The most important problem in local and national Government is that of the selection of the right person for the job. If I may air a bee in my bonnet, if one can indeed do such a thing, I have always expressed concern outside the House that for nearly a century most of the highest posts in the Civil Service went to an exclusive caste in British society.

When I spoke in this House some weeks ago about public schools and how we had recruited for a long time almost exclusively from them most of the senior civil servants, I was more delighted than I can say when a most distinguished right hon. Friend spoke to me after the debate. He pointed out that whereas what I had said was true perhaps 30 or 40 years ago, it is a fact that today more and more ex-grammar school and even ex-elementary school people are making their way up in the Civil Service to some of the higher posts. In the Civil Service, as in the military Services, we want the best men for the job, independently of the schools which they attended and the social group to which they belong, and I think we are moving towards that type of society.

I welcome this opportunity of paying tribute to the civil servants of the country. We have the most incorruptible civil servants in the world. Whatever criticism may be made of the habits of the Civil Service, nobody can fail to admire the whole of the Civil Service for its probity. When I was at school a long time ago—longer than I care to think about—I was taught by the teacher at my elementary school the value of honesty, and the man he held up to me as a pattern of honesty was the village postmaster. It is worth while remembering that there can be few more honest folk in any part of our community than the man who delivers the letters.

In the higher realms of the Civil Service it is true to say that many distinguished minds are serving the country at much lower salaries than their abilities could command outside. Whatever jokes are made about civil servants and their cups of tea on all occasions— as though no great business man ever drinks tea but, instead, works from eight in the morning until midnight without a thirst—my own contacts with many civil servants enable me to say that in Department after Department the country is served not only by able men but by men who work very hard, often beyond their official hours, and who work without overtime pay because they believe in what they are doing.

Having said that, I would add that, there are defects in the Service. The civil servant is inclined to play for safety—a book written during the war by one of my hon. Friends bore the title, "Passed to You"—the civil servant is often afraid to make a decision because, if he does and it turns out to be the wrong decision, he is punished by his superior officer. The whole pattern of the Civil Service tends to discourage initiative—and that is something which we have sooner or later to remedy. There is a tendency to transfer a man from Department to Department. The moment a man has become skilled in one branch of British civic life he is moved to another part of the country and to another Department, because we seem to be afraid that if he digs his roots into a certain job he may succumb to the temptations of corruption or may become hidebound, or may get to know really well the job he is doing.

I think the hon. Member for Huntingdon spoke fairly in his criticism of the Civil Service when he was urging that we want to make Departments efficient. Nobody on this side of the House would object to cutting the staff of any Government Department if we were merely weeding out those who ought not to be there because they were not doing an efficient job of work. One of the problems is that when a Government impose a cut on a Department, the Department solves the problem by sacrificing some part of the work it is doing rather than constricting itself and doing the whole job more efficiently. Our complaint about the Government's economies in the Civil Service is not that they make the Civil Service more efficient. If they did that we should be very pleased with them. Our complaint is that Department after Department will sacrifice some valuable piece of work which they have been doing in order to produce the economy which the Chancellor demands.

I am delighted to have the opportunity of echoing what the hon. and learned Gentleman said about the political independence of the Civil Service.

Mr. Renton

On a point of order. I trust that I am honourable but I am certainly not entitled to be called learned.

Dr. King

Everyone on this side of the House will agree with the hon. Gentleman's tribute to the political independence of the Civil Service, but I am one of those who do not think that one of the necessary prices which we should pay for the political independence of the Civil Service is to deprive civil servants of their political rights as human beings outside their professional jobs. I think it is possible to separate the two.

I believe, too, that in our present organisation the Permanent Secretaries and Permanent Under-Secretaries serve faithfully no matter who are the political Ministers in control of them, but the Bill provides an opportunity, for a short time at any rate, of examining the tremendous implications involved in our dual system of government. We are governed by two groups of people. We are governed by a group of amateur politicians and we are governed, on the other hand, by a group of permanent officials of State. Governments come and Governments go, but the Permanent Secretaries live on for ever.

Mr. Ede

Subject to superannuation.

Dr. King

While it is true that civil servants may regretfully claim that all the credit of the good work they do is taken by politicians, it is also true that most of the bad work of the permanent civil servants is passed on and the responsibility for it borne by the Government of the day.

I am not sure what is the present method of recruitment to the highest positions, but I should like to be sure that it is possible inside the Department for the man of character and efficiency and service to make his way to the highest position. If that is becoming true today, and if this Bill helps it in any way, I hope the House will give the Bill a Second Reading, because I believe the hon. Member for Huntingdon has done a service by raising the issue.

2.48 p.m.

Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely) rose

Mr. Speaker

The hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke on the last occasion and he can speak now only by leave of the House. As he introduced the Bill, perhaps the House will grant him that leave.

Hon. Members: Agreed.

Major Legge-Bourke

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for reminding the House that on the last occasion I made a very short intervention at the end of the proceedings and had three minutes in which to introduce the Bill. I am most grateful to the House for giving me leave to speak again, because I should like to fill in some of the background to what my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) has so clearly said this afternoon about the Bill.

May I first thank my hon. Friend for the clarity with which he has put before the House the main purport of the Bill. In his very kind references to me he said that I had taken a considerable interest in this matter and had gone into it in some detail. Before the war I was a soldier, and I think any soldier of that period knew, as the sailors and airmen also knew, that there was something radically wrong with the provision of the equipment for the Forces.

Even at that stage, while I was still a Regular soldier, I did my best to try to find out what it was, and I came very decisively to the conclusion that one of the main causes was the fact that the Treasury, at that time, exercised a stranglehold over the defence Ministries and Service Ministries which made it virtually impossible sometimes for them to go ahead even with the findings of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet.

I have explained the origin of my interest in this particular matter. I bring forward this Bill not with the intention of removing from the Treasury the general supervision of expenditure. I am introducing this Bill because since my interest was first aroused in this subject one very important thing in particular has happened in relation to this matter.

During the war, and, strangely enough, in the same month as that in which the Battle of El Alamein took place, the Select Committee on National Expenditure issued its Sixteenth Report. It was House of Commons Paper No. 120 of that Session. That Committee was somewhat different from committees now going into such matters in that its minutes were never published. I think the reason was that a good many matters affecting security were involved. Anyone here who was a member of that Committee then will probably bear that out. We have had, therefore, only the findings and recommendations of the Committee, and not the facts that were laid before it and on which it based its findings.

There is a particular one that is relevant to what I am saying now. That Committee came very clearly to this conclusion: There is no evidence which would justify the transfer of the existing seat of control from the Treasury to any other existing or new Department. Their next recommendations will, therefore, be directed to the problem of improving the organisation of the Treasury in so far as it affects Establishments. Without the evidence laid before the Committee it is hard to make up one's mind about its findings, unless one is prepared to take what that Committee says as an authoritative body in Parliament, as I am prepared to do, but in so far as the separation of the control of Departments from the Treasury is concerned, I am not sure that I quite follow it.

One of the papers I read very regularly nowadays is the "O. and M. Bulletin" issued by the Organisation and Methods Division of the Treasury. This paper shows what an immense amount of thought and useful work is involved in deciding the most efficient kind of organisation of the Department and others, too. I want to single out one aspect of this machine of Government, that aspect being the advice which is given to the Prime Minister and to other Ministers of the Crown when they require certain senior posts in the Civil Service to be filled.

Since 1919, when a certain Treasury minute was issued on the matter, the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Treasury has carried with his appointment the designation of Official Head of the Civil Service. One of the things that this Bill does is to change that title. The only reason I want to do that is a constitutional one. It may even seem to the House slightly pedantic. The Civil Service is Her Majesty's Civil Service, and the one and only head of that Civil Service is the Sovereign. It always will be so, let us hope.

I think, therefore, that the nomenclature "Head of the Civil Service" is an unfortunate one. As my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon said, it is hardly in keeping even with its importance. "Official Head" does not sound a very impressive title anyway. We have an official head of the smallest office in the country. I think that, perhaps, the title of marshal or secretary-general, or something of that sort, would be a better title, and I think it is desirable not to call one of the Civil Service the Official Head of the Civil Service.

However, that is a lesser point in the Bill than the main point to which I should now like to direct the attention of the House. Since the "Official Head of the Civil Service" designation was created, and, I think, before that, certain appointments in the higher Civil Service could not be made without the Prime Minister's approval. I think it was the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) who interrupted my hon. Friend to suggest that we in this country have always tried to develop gradually having the right people in the right places, and to some extent to muddle through.

As my hon. Friend rightly said, what we are hoping to do by this Bill is to prevent something going wrong in the future, even if everything is right now. We are attempting to look ahead. That is always a dangerous thing to do, politically, commercially or otherwise, but it is sometimes right that we should do. One of the best reasons for looking ahead is that something went wrong in the past. I am not saying that that was the only reason, but there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that one of the reasons why we went into the war in an appalling state of unpreparedness was the stranglehold the Treasury exercised over the defence Departments. I believe that was because the Head of the Civil Service was the only person to advise the Prime Minister of the day as to who were the suitable people to appoint to the higher posts in the Civil Service.

It would be rash of me if I were to attempt to put forward this case purely off my own bat. I am by no means alone in this matter. Of all the authorities I could quote in aid I suppose I could hardly go higher than a former First Sea Lord, Lord Chatfield. He has himself written on the subject of the tyranny which was exercised by the Treasury over the spending of the defence Departments during that period before the war, so that it was quite impossible for this country to be properly armed or prepared against the event of war.

I want to make this point clear. Lord Chatfield had the greatest admiration for the Official Head of the Civil Service at that time, who himself was a great protagonist of rearmament. Indeed, I would say that so great a protagonist was he that certain things which were happening in the Department of which he was the Permanent Secretary seemed comparatively unimportant to him so obsessed was he with the rearmament of this country. He is dead now, and I am certainly not going to criticise him for what he did. I am sure he did what he thought was right. The point is that he was able to do it only by virtue of that Treasury minute of 1919 that I have already mentioned and which enabled him to exercise a general influence so far as policy was concerned and not only as far as methods were concerned.

It may be very advantageous to the country that such a person should exist, but it may also be very disadvantageous, and there may be a very real danger if he is not a man of the calibre of the present Permanent Secretary to the Treasury and some of his predecessors in that office. The damage they could do, not only to the Government of the day but the country as a whole, is enormous. One of the great principles on which this House has always been founded is that it never likes to give authority to people whom they are not able to call to question by Parliament sooner or later.

One of the evils in the present system seems to be that should the Permanent Secretary so choose—mercifully, the present one certainly does not choose—to try to put over a Government Department certain policies which may not be in tune even with the Government of the day, there is nothing to stop that man doing it.

Mr. Harry Wallace (Walthamstow, East)

Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman indicate what are those policies that could be put right through the Civil Service?

Major Legge-Bourke

No, I certainly would not, because they are all hypothetical. I am speaking hypothetically at the moment. I am merely saying that there is that danger.

One of the things which makes me feel that all has not been as well as it should be is the fact that in 1944 my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary achieved some reforms in the Foreign Office by which the whole of our Foreign Service was separated from the rest of the Civil Service and made virtually a separate service. I believe that one of the reasons that was done was because in the inter-war period there had been interference by the Treasury in the conduct of foreign affairs.

Now, I am not saying this on my own authority; this has been alleged by a great many of our leading diplomats over that period. We also know that an attempt was made to introduce certain reforms into the Foreign Office long, long before they were achieved, and they were opposed, very largely by the Head of the Civil Service of that period. My belief is that we need to safeguard the rights of Ministers to run their own Departments. If a body such as the Treasury is interfering in the conduct of foreign affairs beyond the extent to which it must to ensure the necessary financing of those things which the Foreign Office want to do, then inevitably the whole structure of British foreign policy and defence policy must be imperilled.

I do not intend to bother the House with long quotations about this, because I am sure that hon. Members do not want that after the week we have had, but I assure them that all these things were written down and can be found. They can find what has been said by experienced men in the Foreign Service in days gone by, and by experienced men in the Forces, which bears out far better than I could ever show the fact that there was something rotten in the state of the Civil Service between the wars. It has been put right in the Foreign Service, but it has not been put right in our defence Services.

Mr. Wallace

The hon. and gallant Gentleman says that things have now been put right between the Treasury and the Foreign Office. Do the Treasury still control British labour attaches attached to the Foreign Service?

Major Legge-Bourke

I am prepared to believe that they do, as I presume the whole point of the hon. Gentleman's question is that that is so. But I must make it clear that I am not trying to divorce the organisation and methods side of it in other Departments from the Treasury. What I say is that, so far as appointments are concerned there is a separation of the Foreign Service from the rest of the Civil Service. The Foreign Office have achieved reforms which were proposed long, long before, and which had been opposed by the Treasury for a great many years.

My view is that the first interest of the House of Commons must always be the security and defence of this country. It is always dangerous to leave in being something which has gone wrong in the past simply and solely because the man at present in charge is managing the whole affair extremely well—and no one would deny for a moment that the present Permanent Secretary to the Treasury is one of the most valuable civil servants this country has ever had. I am suggesting, quite simply, that without in any way interfering with the machinery, which is working satisfactorily at the moment, we could ensure that never again shall things occur that went wrong before.

The suggestion in the Bill is simply this: that from the higher civil servants should be selected a body of the most experienced men to take over from the permanent Under-Secretary of Defence the job of advising Ministers and advising the Prime Minister when they want advice, and only when they want advice, as to who should be the people to fill the post. I understand that the Treasury have nicknamed this Bill "The Prime Minister and Sir Edward Bridges Bill." I have no wish whatever to abolish anyone at all. What I want to do, humanely, sensibly and quietly, is to destroy a certain power which still exists.

Mr. Edward Evans (Lowestoft)

With great respect to the hon. and gallant Member, may I raise a point of order? This issue seems to me to involve some Cabinet responsibility. There is not a Member of the Cabinet here. Surely this is a question of such supreme importance that we should (have some one of sufficient standing in the Cabinet to reply to these issues.

Major Legge-Bourke

Before you reply to that point of order, Mr. Speaker, it may help if I were to say that, originally, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury was representing the Government so far as this Bill is concerned. He was courteous enough to be present when the Bill was first introduced and he would, I know, have liked to have been present this afternoon if he possibly could have been.

I understand that the Joint Undersecretary of State for the Home Department has nobly come in his stead and that, so far as I am concerned, causes no offence to me because I am glad to see my hon. Friend who formerly represented my constituency in his place this afternoon. So far as the point of order is concerned, I have no complaint because if this Bill becomes an Act the person who, in all probability, would answer questions as a result of that Act would be the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who is represented here this afternoon by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department.

Dr. King

I was hoping that we should hear from you, Mr. Speaker, something on the point of order. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is making a series of attacks on the Treasury itself. The whole of his case seems to be that the reason that we were so badly off during the war was the fault of the Treasury. Surely there should be a Minister here who can deal with those charges.

Mr. Speaker

No point of order is involved here. The Treasury is frequently attacked and, in my experience, as a Member of Parliament, is well able to look after itself. The presence of the hon. Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office should, I think, by the doctrine of joint responsibility of Ministers, enable criticisms to be answered if necessary.

Major Legge-Bourke

My last point is this. The idea which I was trying to embody in this Bill is not my own. I make no pretence that it is. It was first put forward in a book written by no less a person than Mr. H. E. Dale, formerly Principal Assistant Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. He published a book called "The Higher Civil Service," by the Oxford University Press, in 1941. In Appendix B of that book he deals with the particular matter to which I have tried to direct the attention of the House this afternoon. I should like to make a fairly substantial quotation from it.

On page 227 he says: The possible candidates for a particular vacancy should be considered, I suggest, and the recommendation made, by a small ad hoc committee. It would probably require to meet only once. The Chairman should be the Minister for the Department where the vacancy has occurred or is about to occur; and the other members should be the Secretary to the Treasury and one of his immediate subordinates, the Secretary of the Department concerned, if available, and one or two permanent Heads of other Departments—usually the Departments that in the ordinary course of things have most business with the Department of the vacancy. That was the germ of the idea which I tried to embody in the Bill. Mr. Dale wanted an ad hoc committee. The danger of ad hoc committees is that, if one is not careful, one is apt to forget that one has created them for certain purposes. In this matter it seems very much better to have a statutorily-provided body to be available in the event of a Minister requiring advice. That is why I have made mine a little more formal than Mr. Dale did his.

The other reason which fortifies me in putting forward a Bill is that in 146 a group of Conservatives, including several Members of Parliament, some still being Members of this Parliament, published a book entitled, "Some proposals for Constitutional reform." The group had considered the problem that we are considering this afternoon in the light of the 16th Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure. Recommendations were made about the selection of candidates for the Civil Service. The three leading recommendations were: (1) The title of 'Head of the Civil Service' should be abolished, and the general control of the Civil Service should be vested in a new Department; (2) the functions now exercised by the Civil Service Commission should be transferred to this new department, together with the work done by the Establishments Branch of the Treasury, and the administration of the Civil Service as a whole should be entrusted to it; (3) at the head of this department there should be a Minister of the Crown who should be responsible for all Civil Service matters; he should be a member of one or other House of Parliament, but not necessarily a member of the Cabinet … As to the wider aspects of those recommendations, I do not feel that I am in a position to judge. But what I do feel is that one should read what men who have held posts of great responsibility in times of great stress have to say about the period in which they did so. There is no question that the intolerable burden placed especially on the Foreign Service overseas—particularly in Europe —cannot entirely be divorced from the system of selecting the higher members of the Civil Service that we had at that period. That has been put right for the Foreign Service, but it has not been put right for the Defence Services. Anyone who imagines that this country will be able in the future to play the part it wishes to play in keeping the peace of the world without making sure that the machinery of Government is so good that our defence measures match our foreign policy is crying for the moon.

It is in that spirit that I present the Bill, carefully avoiding, so far as I can. any recrimination about the past, because that is purely a waste of time. In the hope that Parliament and the country will take a little more interest in the machinery of Government. I commend the Bill to the House.

3.15 p.m.

Mr. Harry Wallace (Walthamstow. East)

I cannot agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) that he has made no reflections upon the Civil Service.

Major Legge - Bourke

I said "recriminations."

Mr. Wallace

Or recriminations. I understood the hon. and gallant Gentleman was suggesting that we almost lost the war because of almost criminal negligence on the part of someone in the Treasury before 1939. If that is not recrimination, I do not know what is; it sounds almost like treason. I should join with the hon. and gallant Gentleman in demanding an inquiry. I wish the Prime Minister were here, for before 1939 he had much to say about neglect, but I have never heard him complaining that it all flowed from this permanent Head of the Civil Service. I think the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) should have told us how the Treasury stood in the way of preventing the country getting the defence it needed.

In the present situation the existing machinery, about which the hon. Gentleman and the hon. and gallant Gentleman made no complaint, is working well. I cannot support this Bill. I look at Clause 4 (b) which leads off with the statement "To perform all other functions …" That is a pretty sweeping statement. It may be that this is restricted by the Clause itself and by the title of the Bill, but it seems to me to be more than a question of half a dozen men coming together and making recommendations to a Minister or Ministers, or even to the Prime Minister.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman has said enough this afternoon—and I think he has given a good deal of attention to this matter—to demand, not the setting up of this Appointments Board, but some form of public inquiry. This Bill would not accomplish that purpose. There are no complaints against the present personnel and, generally speaking, against past personnel, although before the outbreak of war—I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Member was referring to before 1939 or before 1914—

Major Legge-Bourke

Before 1939.

Mr. Wallace

At any rate, there was some permanent official at the Treasury then who was standing in the way of the country getting what it needed for defence. Surely the best way to deal with that is by an inquiry.

Major Legge-Bourke

I think I understand why the hon. Gentleman has drawn the conclusion he has from what I said. 1 hope that I was fair in my remarks about that particular official who was at that time the Head of the Civil Service. Never for one moment have I questioned his motives. In fact, I know he was adamant in getting the country armed, but what I say is that the system whereby his numerous powers were established was through this Treasury Minute of 1919, and that underlies the whole thing. That is a Ministerial responsibility.

Mr. Wallace

I agree that the hon. and gallant Member has not ascribed motives to anyone, but he thinks that a certain change is desirable. I have listened to many speeches in this House, and instead of going for the benefits and instead of making sure that we are getting the right administration, we are all content to leave it and say that it is the system; and if it is the system to set up a Board then that particular Board will be right.

It seems to me that the hon. and gallant Member, who supports the Government, wants either the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to be in the position of answering Questions in Parliament on these particular promotions. Where would that lead to? Does anyone in the House seriously suggest that all promotions taking place in the Civil Service should, if necessary, be brought here for this Chamber to attempt to decide? That is utterly impossible.

I am sure the hon. and gallant Member will agree that if it were a case of a military promotion and the House had to start going into details about whether Field Marshal Montgomery should be appointed, we might be nine months wrangling about it, and if we had a week something like the present week the battle would be lost before the appointment was made. If we are satisfied that some individual officer is not doing his duty, let us get after him. He has a responsible position and is responsible to the head of the Department. Let him face those responsibilities and face the penalty if he is not doing his work.

I am attracted by the idea that the hon. and gallant Member, apparently, has in mind a department, which I will name an establishment department, with which the Treasury shall not interfere. That is an attractive position in local government, but when it comes to the question of establishment, grading, promotions and so on, it cannot be separated from finance. It cannot be done in local government. The ratepayers have to find the money.

The hon. and gallant Member agrees that the Treasury must have the power to supervise, and so do I. That is very important, and it was never more important than today, when throughout the world, not only here but in all countries, Governments find that they have to intervene more and more in the economic and social life of the people. As long as we have to keep Treasury supervision without authority, without responsibility, we cannot have what the hon. and gallant Member wants. That supervision must be accompanied by something else.

I have a good deal of sympathy with the point of view put forward by the hon. and gallant Member. I am sure he will agree that the head of a Department should have freedom in his Department and be responsible to Parliament, and subject to public audit and so on by the Treasury. Ever since I first entered the House in 1929, I have been a strong advocate of freedom for the Postmaster-General within his own Department, with no interference from the Treasury but always responsible to give an account.

The hon. and gallant Member can join me today. I want the present Govern- ment, as I wanted my own Government, to put the Postmaster-General back where he was in 1917, when he last published his annual report. I want that annual report to be restored. I should like a comprehensive report from the Post Office and for the Postmaster-General to have one day at least, not dependent on the selection of a Supply day, in which he would answer for his Department, as I should like to see done in the case of coal, gas, and electricity, for example. It is the business of this Chamber to protect the consumer or the taxpayer, whichever way we like to put it.

I have a good deal of sympathy with the hon. and gallant Member, but when he says that the Treasury still exercise no influence over the Foreign Office, I wish that were true. I have taken note of what the hon. and gallant Member said and I am sorry that the Financial Secretary is not present. I am not complaining of that, because Ministers have their duties elsewhere and must perform them. Who is responsible for the reduction in the number of labour attaches attached to the Foreign Service? I venture to say that it is not the Foreign Secretary, not the Minister of Labour, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Was there ever a more foolish policy than that to indulge in today, when the western world has to fight to get its ideas understood, its values appreciated, its methods understood and possibly adopted by other countries? What do we do? We reduce the number of labour attaches.

I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Member will join me in this. The duties discharged by the labour attaches are such as were never previously performed by members of the embassies and cannot be performed by them for the simple reason that they never mix with the people with whom the labour attaches mix. One of the greatest services done to this country was by my friend the late Ernest Bevin when he appointed the labour attaches. Is this reduction in the number from 20 to 17 a first step to get rid of them because those in the embassies do not like them?

Mr. Cyril Osbome (Louth)


Mr. Wallace

I hope the hon. Member is right, but I am not so sure that he is not mistaken. He thinks I am mistaken.

Mr. Osborne

I met the labour attaché twice on two visits to Washington; that is the key appointment. He worked well as far as I understand it with the embassy in Washington, and is doing an important job. I am sure that no one wants to get rid of him.

Mr. Wallace

I did not say that. He does work well. I have known that gentleman, Mr. Gordon, for many years. I know the full story of the struggle in Washington, and that is no reflection on existing members of that embassy. But the number has been reduced from 20 to 17, and I very much fear it is going to be reduced again. I hope I am wrong, but if I am right I hope hon. Members opposite will join forces with us. I am glad to have the tribute of the hon. Member that this is a good and valuable service. If we could have labour attachés throughout the world of the quality of the present labour attaché in Washington, and if we could have the service which is rendered in the United States given by those labour attachés, it would be very much better for this country.

In Yugoslavia, Italy, the Balkans, Turkey and Greece is it not there that we need to be understood? Why have we not a labour attaché in each of these countries? Again I say the reason is the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We have not removed that influence and this Bill will not remove it. It is a bigger issue than this Bill contemplates.

I have been connected with the Post Office, and perhaps it is not for me to defend the Civil Service. Nor am I suggesting that nothing could ever be wrong or that they should never be called to account, but I think it will be agreed that the work done by the Organisation and Methods Department is very good work which is putting permanent heads of departments on their toes as to efficiency and so forth. It is a service which I want to see developed, because I think that as administrations grow and become more complex there is a case for this constant overhaul of staffing, duties, demarcation and so forth, and it needs to be extended to local government. There is a lot of work before it in local government.

There is another issue which this Bill does not touch, because all that the hon. and gallant Member wants is this Board of six, selected from certain Departments. How are they to be selected, these six who are always to produce the right men at the right time? The hon. and gallant Member does not visualise the inter-Departmental conflicts that can take place on this Board. Who is to come in and settle them? The Minister. Look at the position of the Minister if he is faced by a recommendation by this Board. It might become the most restrictive authority one could think of. Having now one person who is thought to be a danger, does the hon. and gallant Member think that by setting up a board of six that danger is removed? I do not think so.

Major Legge-Bourke

The hon. Member is apparently more worried about that aspect than I am. The point I am trying to get at is the question whether one person's opinion is likely to be better than that of six: are we likely to get a better result than by giving one person all that power?

Mr. Wallace

I do not think that six will necessarily be an improvement in that respect. The six combined might be a great danger and be very difficult for any Minister to deal with. If anything, it is strengthening the power of the permanent officials, not weakening it, by setting up this kind of board.

This proposal will put Ministers in a difficulty. The hon. and gallant Member would be on far sounder ground in demanding, as I have been demanding, full freedom and responsibility for the Minister in his Department, with responsibility to the Treasury and to this Chamber: but this Board?—no. The Financial Secretary or the Chancellor of the Exchequer would only be a figurehead, but so far as this House is concerned he would be the chairman. I do not think that this proposal is on the right lines.

I do not wish to take up too much time, as other hon. Members may wish to speak about this Bill. The hon. and gallant Member gave us a number of quotations. His main case was that of a soldier who had been worried about what was happening before 1939. I do not wish to be discourteous, but I do not think that that was relevant to this Bill, with its simple proposal of "Let us have six." These quotations may indicate something that ought to be looked at. I am not one of those who thinks that the Civil Service—as the Service as a whole would readily agree—is perfect; it is always open to suggestions. I do ask, however, if a top-notch civil servant such as the Permanent Secretary is standing in the way, what is the Minister doing?

I have heard suggestions made by those who occupy high places that they cannot do this and that because of the permanent officials. That is an explanation I would not accept from any Minister. That means either cowardice or laziness. The Minister is responsible, and it is the Minister we should go after. If he is not doing his job he should be removed, and I am sure the present Prime Minister would be very happy to remove him.

I have tried to be unprejudiced about this. I have had a great deal of experience of serving on joint committees and so on, and I have seen boards in operation. Do not let us deceive ourselves and think that because we get six heads together, they will be better than one. If that one is the right head I do not believe that six would be better, and I do not believe that the hon. and gallant Gentleman thinks so either. He is worried that at some time we may not get the right head. But this Board is more likely to give us, not the right head, but the result of an agreement about whose turn it is next

Major Legge-Bourke

It depends on what he does.

Mr. Wallace

I am talking about the Board—

Major Legge-Bourke

It depends very much on what the head does when he is there. My opinion is that this Bill reduces the powers of the head very considerably.

Mr. Wallace

No, this Bill will not reduce the powers of the head; but it is hoped that it will help to get the right head and then my criticism of Clause 4 (1, b) is endorsed, that it needs a lot of amplification when reference is made to this Board undertaking other duties. 1 say again that a better result will not be obtained by taking away one and putting in six.

I am opposed to this Bill. I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman has raised a point which needs investigation, but this is not the way. If he had some specific complaint against the Civil Service he should raise it and we should get an answer from the benches opposite, and if necessary, an inquiry. This Bill is submitted to the House with good but misplaced intentions, and it will not achieve what we want to see done for the Civil Service.

3.37 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth)

This is a Private Members' day and it is not open to the Government to control the time at which business is discussed. Unfortunately, my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has an important public engagement elsewhere and is unable to be present. He has apologised to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke), but I should like to say how sorry he is that he cannot be present.

This is a matter on which I can properly express the view of the Government. Complaint was made that a Cabinet Minister was not present, but unless there are exceptional circumstances I think that the House will agree that on a Private Member's Bill it is desirable to have a junior Minister to reply rather than a Cabinet Minister.

The Second Reading of this Bill seeks to raise two important questions; whether a change in the present system of making appointments to the senior posts in the Civil Service is desirable and whether changes of the kind made in the Title of the Bill are workable. Of the existing machinery for making senior appointments in the Civil Service, I would say that all Civil Service appointments without exception are made by the Minister in charge of the Department concerned. In the case of the top level, however, and also of the Principal Establishments Officer and the Principal Finance Officer, the assent of the Prime Minister is required to the appointment in question.

That assent is required as a matter of practice. It is not required as a matter of law. The practice could be changed tomorrow, though I do not think anyone is contemplating that, and indeed it has been in existence for a very long time. When the Prime Minister's assent is sought he looks for advice primarily to the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury. He looks for that advice in the same way as any Minister looks for the advice of an official. It is a Minister-civil servant relationship. I do not think that there is any dispute, or that there has even been any dispute in any part of the House, that there is need for some such machinery as that which I have indicated to deal with these senior posts It is essential, among the senior posts at all events, that there should be some co-ordination. Therefore, some machinery of this kind has to exist.

What the Bill does is to substitute for the simple machinery which I have described a more complicated piece of machinery. Instead of the advice coming through the single official, it is proposed to put that office into commission, to put the matter in broad terms. The first question we must ask is whether such a duty as that which I have described can be performed at all by a committee. It is worth considering what is the nature of this duty. It involves the continuous collection of views and expressions of opinion not formally and not indeed even intentionally. This collection of views must necessarily go on all the time if it is to be of any value, and very often the views are collected incidentally in the course of the work of the official Head of the Civil Service. This involves constant informal discussion with Ministers and others.

I doubt very much whether it is possible for that to be done at all by any committee, board, or commission. The Ministers who make these appointments are fully responsible for the appointments, and rightly so, as the hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Wallace) said. The Prime Minister seeks and obtains in the normal way the advice which is required of him in the special cases. Instead of that, the Bill proposes to set up a piece of formal and somewhat cumbrous machinery. I think that is the intention of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely. He wants the machinery to be formal and cumbrous.

The result of that must be either that the machinery is ineffective to do anything at all, so that no satisfactory advice will be received by the Prime Minister when he wishes it, or alternatively it will be effective and it will lead to interference in the proper discharge of these duties by the Ministers concerned. That is the dilemma which at once arises from the proposals of the Bill.

Major Legge-Bourke

Does my hon. Friend say that because of the wrong drafting of the Clause which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton)? It is certainly not our intention that it should work in any other way than solely at the option of the Minister or the Prime Minister.

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

I am not suggesting that the hon. and gallant Gentleman's intention is not a proper one. I appreciate what he says about the machinery coming into operation only on the action of the Prime Minister. Of course, that is necessarily so. The Prime Minister himself cannot possibly have this information. He will always have to seek to co-ordinate. My point is that the machine will be either ineffective or too effective. It is impossible that it should have the flexibility of the present arrangements.

It has been argued that the duty of the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury in this connection should not be combined with the duty of the headship of the Treasury. I think that was implied in some of my hon. and gallant Friend's arguments, and it has certainly been argued, but it raises the whole question of the functions of the Treasury in relation to the Civil Service establishment. If we take away the duties of the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury in this connection, we must also take away the whole of the functions of the Treasury in this connection. We cannot remove the duties of the head of the Treasury but leave the rest of the functions in the Treasury.

The Bill is silent on this point, although there is some rather vague drafting about it in Clause 4, but I think the intention of the promoters is that we should not take these functions from the Treasury. My hon. and gallant Friend very properly referred to the Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure which said quite specifically that there was no evidence which would justify the transference of the existing seat of control from the Treasury to any other existing or new Department. I thought he accepted that view and that he proposed that the functions of the Treasury with regard to the Civil Service should be left in the Treasury.

To suggest that these powers of the head of the Treasury enable him to interfere with the policies of other Departments is not borne out. The facts do not show that. I am not referring to the financial powers of the Treasury. We are not concerned with them this afternoon. We are concerned with the powers of the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury in his capacity as official Head of the Civil Service. I have not time to deal with it, but the whole matter was fully dealt with in a letter by Lord Vansittart to the "Manchester Guardian" published on 25th July, 1950. Those who wish to do so can see there a very full discussion of the matter.

I can say, without fear of contradiction, that no person who has been a Minister would hold that the powers of the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury have been used by him to interfere in the policies of other Departments. There has been no such suggestion made today and, as far as I know, no person who has been a Minister has ever made such a suggestion. If there were anything of the kind, it would be for Ministers and Ministers alone to make that complaint, because it is a responsibility of Ministers; and if they do not complain, I do not think it is open to anybody else to do so.

Perhaps I may turn for a moment to the provisions of the Bill. First of all, I repeat that this kind of matter is quite unsuitable for legislation. I think that the proposed constitution of the Board really brings out that point. First of all, we have to look at the position of the Ministerial chairman visà-vis his official colleagues on the Board, on the one hand, and his Ministerial colleagues in the Government, on the other.

The promoters of the Bill have suggested that the chairman should be the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is quite obvious he will not have very much time to devote to this work. The suggestion then is that the Financial Secretary should occupy the chair, but he would be in a quite intolerable position in this connection. I do not think my hon. and gallant Friend would really say that that part of the Bill is satisfactory. I am not criticising the Bill in the sense that it is badly drafted. I am only saying that the difficulty that arises here shows the fundamental difficulty that this is not a matter to be dealt with by legislation.

Major Legge-Bourke

I will withdraw the Bill now if my hon. Friend will undertake that the Chancellor will introduce a new Treasury minute to put right what is wrong.

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

My hon. and gallant Friend has not suggested what he wants in the way of a new Treasury minute. The choice of the particular Departments mentioned in the Bill is quite arbitrary. Of course, it is necessary to choose particular Departments because if he did not do so the Board would be so large that it would be quite unworkable. We are at once in this difficulty: how are we to say what Departments are to be represented on this Board? The method of choosing the individuals concerned is by length of service. That would mean their age—not a very satisfactory way. I am not in any way trying to make fun of my hon. and gallant Friend's suggestion. What I am saying is that these are difficulties which necessarily arise out of the fundamental difficulty of doing what he suggests and only show that his suggestion is not a practicable one.

One word about the "Marshal of the Civil Service." First of all, there is no Head of the Civil Service. The Permanent Secretary to the Treasury is described as the official Head of the Civil Service, and, of course, he is the official Head of the Civil Service. It is no good saying in a Bill that he is not so. One would by law be prevented from so describing him, at any rate in official documents, but he would still remain the chief civil servant. There is no particular objection to a name. I do not think that my hon. and gallant Friend feels that a name is objectionable. It is no good calling him the marshal. If there is objection to the name "head" there would be objection to the name "marshal."

Major Legge-Bourke


Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

If the functions were the same the objection would follow. What is the "Marshal of the Civil Service" intended to do? The Bill says he is to be …the chief civil servant in respect of matters concerning establishments of Government Departments. I think that is intended to mean the present functions of the Treasury in relation to the Civil Service in respect of such questions as pay, recruitment to the Service, discipline, and so on. If the "Marshal of the Civil Service" had responsibility in these matters and they were not to be transferred away from the Treasury, the marshal would be responsible, as regards a large section of his duties, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer as the Minister in charge of the Treasury, but as the marshal is intended to be chosen from some other Department he would be in exactly the position of the man with two masters, and I do not really think the result would be very satisfactory.

For the reasons which I have given as quickly as I have been able to do, I cannot advise the House to accept this Bill. I think my hon. and gallant Friend appreciates the difficulties, and I hope that after this discussion he will be willing to withdraw the Bill. I can tell him that Her Majesty's Government are always concerned to ensure that the machinery of Government works as efficiently as possible, and I can assure him and all the other hon. Gentlemen who have spoken that their views in this connection are always welcome, and will always be carefully considered.

Mr. Wallace

Do not forget the labour attachés.

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

I said "all." I should like to thank my hon. and gallant Friend for the care and trouble he has taken, and in the light of what I have said I hope that he will withdraw the Bill before the matter has to be put to the House.

3.56 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

I gathered from the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) that this Bill arose out of the fears he entertained when he was an officer in the Forces during the period between the two wars. I can well understand that anyone who was an officer in the Forces at that time had every right to feel anxious about the provision that was being made.

Major Legge-Bourke

Thanks to the Labour Party's opposition to rearmament.

Mr. Ede

Oh, no. After all, that was never effective. The Service Estimates always went through, and the Government of the day could have got any Estimates they liked to ask for.

Major Legge-Bourke rose

Mr. Ede

The hon. and gallant Gentleman really must allow me to continue. During the First World War 1 also was seriously concerned, but it was mainly about the officers: I could not see as far away as the Civil Service. One always has to have some kind of lightning conductor by which to transfer one's fears to earth.

I regard this Bill as a very stupid Bill. I do not think that anyone who has had the task of serving in a Department could think that this would be an improvement on the present system. I am not saying the existing system is perfect. Far from it. But the idea that the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury and the Prime Minister make these appointments without consulting the heads of the Departments concerned, is, I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman, quite an illusion. I was in charge of one Department, and I know something that happened in another Department which I had just left when the Government in which I was a Cabinet Minister was formed and there was a change of the Permanent Head almost at once. There was a change of the Permanent Head of the Home Office while I was at the Home Office.

I agree with the Joint Under-Secretary, that this is the kind of thing which, in the English way of doing things, is best left to those informal arrangements which enable the greatest variety of advice to be obtained. It must allow freedom of expression unformalised to be made so that, after consideration of a large variety of views, the best persons shall be put into these positions of great responsibility.

If anybody were appointed to be, say, Marshal of the Civil Service, I should think that that would create the utmost terror in the ranks of civil servants, who might very well expect to be paraded on the annual pay day to receive the issue in the way some of them recollect when they were in the Services. [Interruption.] The hon. and gallant Gentleman has already made a speech this afternoon. and has so interrupted other hon. Members as to create a record for this Parliament, and that is saying something. I am now glad to feed that the sound of clock chimes I can hear elsewhere means that this Bill will not receive a Second Reading this afternoon at any rate, and I hope it never will.

It being Four o'clock, the debate stood adojurned.